Love Yourself and Strengthen Your Marriage

Scripture declares that we should each love others in the same manner that we love ourselves (Lev. 19:8, Mat. 22:39, Mar. 12:31, Rom. 13:9, Gal. 5:14, Jas. 2:8).  The "golden rule" taught by Jesus states that we should each treat others the way in which we would like to be treated (Mat. 7:12, Luk. 6:31).  Indeed, the only way we can truly know how to respect and esteem others is to first have self-respect and self-esteem.  A person with a negative self-image will invariably depreciate others and treat them poorly.  The Bible, in all it's wisdom, works from the assumption that positive human interactions are only possible when people love themselves first.  That is, when they have an appreciation of their own worth, strive to fulfill their own needs, seek happiness, and have a healthy sense of self-confidence, personal regard, and dignity.  Self-love is a critical component to successful relationships.  This is especially true in marriage.

Countless problems between husbands and wives occur as a result of one or both partners having a low degree of self-esteem, self-respect, self-confidence, and so forth. These characteristics are toxic to the marital relationship for a multitude of reasons.  Perhaps one of the most significant reasons is that a person with low self-concept will often look to marriage as his/her primary or exclusive source of happiness and fulfillment.  This is both unfair and unrealistic.  Such outrageous expectations put an overwhelming amount of pressure on one's spouse.  No one could possibly live up to this in the long term.  It is a set up for failure.

Often, people use the term "needy" to describe this phenomenon.  While the "needy" person may contribute to the relationship in positive ways from time to time, his/her primary role is to suck the energy out of the marriage by demanding continual attention, encouragement, reassurance, consolation, and so forth.  Everyone possesses an instinctive longing to be loved, appreciated, and accepted.  Surly part of the reason that God instituted marriage is to provide for the fulfillment of this natural desire.  But when this need is significantly unbalanced in a marriage serious problems are inevitable.

By contrast, when one possesses appropriate self-regard and self-worth he/she tends to invest in the relationship instead of only taking from it.  Such individuals are more empathetic, understanding, and giving.  Because they don't rely on the marriage to fulfill all of their needs they are able to but the emphasis where it belongs - on the relationship and not on oneself. 

Not every marriage that experiences unhappiness contains a prototypical "needy" person.  But, sometimes even a small amount of personal unhappiness in some area of life by one or both spouses can lead to stress on the relationship.  Here are some things to consider as you strive to love yourself and, thereby, strengthen your marriage.

(1)  Know yourself.  It's not always easy, but give an honest effort to gaining some personal insight regarding your thoughts and feelings pertaining to your self-concept.  Consider how personal unhappiness or under-fulfillment is some areas may be contributing to marital problems.

(2)  Accept yourself.  Many times personal unhappiness stems from perceived deficiencies that we needlessly inflate in our own minds.  You have faults and weaknesses.  Congratulations, you're human.  Certainly it's a good thing to strive to be the best person you can be.  But, don't devalue yourself for not meeting unrealistic expectations you have for yourself.

(3)  Create your own happiness.  Neither your partner nor your marriage can "make" you happy.  You will only be happy if you assume responsibility to become so.  Stop blaming, demanding, and accusing your spouse.  The purpose of marriage is to share happiness - not to expect your spouse to provide it for you.

(4)  Be secure in yourself.  In healthy marriages, spouses trust, depend, and rely on one another.  But, they are also secure in themselves in the absence of their partner.  Healthy marriages consist of two whole people who mutually commit to fidelity.

(5)  Be content.  Often unhappiness stems from things that we should not desire as strongly as we do.  Your happiness should not be based on wealth, possessions, social status, prestige, and so forth.  Learn to enjoy the simple things in life and appreciate the things that really matter.
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